It’s been six months since the White House announced President Biden was appointing  Dr. Jose Emilio Esteban to serve as USDA’s Undersecretary for Food Safety, and nothing more has happened.

By protocol, the undersecretary is the top food safety post in the federal government.  But that has not made any difference to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, where the Esteban appointment has remained week after week, and month after month awaiting a needed confirmation hearing that has not occurred.

It’s now likely that if Esteban ever does win U.S. Senate confirmation, he will be among the last of Biden’s original appointments to do so. About 100 of the top 700 Biden executive appointments still require Senate confirmation.

Esteban needs to have his nomination heard and recommended to the full Senate before his confirmation vote.  He is no closer to accomplishing those steps than he was six months ago.

If confirmed by the Senate,  Esteban would become the sixth  Senate-confirmed undersecretary for food safety since Congress created the executive position in 1994. The Senate Agriculture Committee has not said whether disinterest in USDA food safety or some other reason is why it is letting the Esteban nomination languish.

Esteban is a veteran of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), where he worked since 2001, becoming its chief scientist in 2018. His official USDA biolography makes these points:

In addition to Brashears, previous under secretaries include Dr. Elisabeth Hagen (August 2010- December 2013), Dr. Richard Allen Raymond (July 2005–January 2009), Elsa A. Murano (October 2001–December 2004), and Catherine Woteki (July 1997–January 2001). 

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